Drift dreamily down the Danube

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Since growing up near Ulm, Germany, close to where the Danube begins its epic journey from The Black Forest southeast to the Black Sea, I’ve been captivated by the majesty of the river we knew as Donau. The Danube has woven countries and cultures together for thousands of years; it has been a catalyst for economic development, a pathway for migration, and an inspiration for works of art and classical music.

Starting today, you can cruise this international waterway with Street View in Google Maps, sailing through six countries, three capitals, and enjoying many arresting landscapes along the way. To capture the imagery, the Trekker was mounted on the riverboat ms Treasures, operated by Tauck, and Scylla, its maritime partner, for cruises along the Danube and other European rivers.

Your virtual boat ride begins in Bratislava, Slovakia, where at the top of the hill, you can see Bratislava Castle. Originally settled during the Bronze Age (around 3500 BC), the castle remains a dominant sight in the area, fixed at a crucial trade point on the Danube.

Steering the ship through Hungary, the shoreline is crowded with sights of downtown Budapest. Whether you’re gazing at the famous Chain Bridge by night or the Hungarian parliament by day, the views from the boat dock will not disappoint.

On the riverbank of Croatia sits Vukovar, an old baroque city with breathtaking architecture. The Franciscan Monastery and the Church of St. Philip and Jacob overlook the city, peering down at the waters of the Danube.

The natural landscapes along the Danube and the views of the river itself may be the real highlight of the journey—try drifting through the Cazanele Mari area in Romania, where more than a third of the Danube’s waterways weave, or the Krcedinska Ada area in Serbia, where the water seems to come alive with reflections from the sky above and the terrain on either side of the riverway.

Then onwards to Bulgaria, where the Danube acts as a bordering line with neighboring Romania. The bridges that connect Bulgaria and Romania are believed to be among the shortest ways to reach Western Europe from the East.

Growing up close to the drainage basin of this great river, whenever I visit a city along the Danube it’s easy to feel connected not just to my hometown but also to everything in between. That’s why I find it even more exciting to connect all the pieces on Street View, follow the river all the way, and see what a grown-up and majestic river “my” little Danube from Ulm becomes when it flows into the Black Sea.

Hopefully you too will enjoy this journey down the Danube on Street View in Google Maps.

Posted by Ulf Spitzer, Product Manager, Google Maps Street View

From sea to shining sea: A Street View tour of the U.S.

Monday, March 23, 2015 at 8:30 AM

Street View in Google Maps can take you on virtual journeys to far-off lands and exotic places. But sometimes adventure is waiting for you right in your own backyard. For Americans looking to learn more about their country, you can now explore some new scenic and interesting places here in the U.S., thanks to new imagery collected through the Trekker Loan Program.

Today some of Michigan’s most beautiful places have come to Google Maps, collected in partnership with Pure Michigan. Visit the historic, family-owned Grand Hotel, or enjoy the view over Lake Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore—the Great Lake State has something to offer for everyone.

For some California dreamin’, zip on over to Monterey, where our partners at the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau helped collect some of the state’s most sought-after scenes. Taking a walk under the blue sky at Carmel Beach or dipping your toes in the local river at the Big Sur River Inn will give you a taste of the beauty of the west coast.

Thanks to our partners at The Conservation Fund, American history buffs can pay homage to Civil War soldiers at the Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland, float down Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, or explore the First State’s First National Monument in Delaware, where the constitution was first ratified.

Whether you’re a kid learning about the world beyond your neighborhood or a tourist looking for a place to take your next trip, America’s unique history and beauty make it a great destination. To see more sites, explore our U.S. Highlights Gallery.

Posted by Deanna Yick, Google Maps Street View Program Manager

Zoom with a view: Visit India’s stunning monuments online

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 1:33 AM

(Cross-posted from the Google Asia Pacific Blog and Google India Blog)

Since last year, we’ve partnered with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and other institutions to bring a comprehensive range of India’s heritage sites online, including national icons like the Taj Mahal, Safdarjung Tomb, and the Ellora Caves. Starting today, history lovers and online explorers alike can now find new panoramic views of 31 Indian archaeological sites and monuments on Google Maps and the Google Cultural Institute. Here’s a virtual walk through of some of these stunning monuments, made possible by Street View technology:

Begin your journey at the Gateway of India, a popular starting point for tourists who wish to explore bustling Mumbai, one of India's largest cities. Pan through the imagery for a closer look at the yellow basalt stone arch, covered with intricate Gujarati-influenced latticework.

From there, hop over to the Sun Temple at Konârk, one of India’s Seven Wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for a glimpse of the chariot-shaped temple and its elaborately carved stone wheels, pillars and walls.

For a flavour of India’s royal legacy, visit the Mysore Palace next, one of the country’s grandest royal palaces. Built in the Indo-Saracenic style, the Palace hosts the Mysore Dasara, which celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2010 and attracts visitors from around the world.

Next, wander through the remains of ancient India’s highest seat of education - the Nalanda University. Learn more about the amazing discoveries uncovered during its excavation through the Archaeological Survey of India’s virtual exhibit, “Nalanda: from Mound to Monument", on the Google Cultural Institute.

Following that, roam through Karnataka’s largest temple complex: the Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, an impressive series of nine Hindu temples and a Jain sanctuary. This World Heritage Site celebrates the Chalukya dynasty, narrating stories of their bravery and valour in the battlefield.

You can also head further down south to the state of Tamil Nadu for a look at Thanjavur Temple on Street View, a fine example of Tamil architecture created during India’s Chola dynasty. The temple, dedicated to Chola emperor Rajaraja, is entirely built out of granite.

That’s just a quick tour of some of the 31 sites we’ve brought onto Google Maps and the Google Cultural Institute today by working with the ASI, as well as the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, Karnataka Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation. We hope exploring the new panoramic views of these important sites will help people in India and around the world discover, explore, and learn more about India’s rich heritage.

Posted by: Chetan Krishnaswamy, Country Head - Public Policy, Google India

Mapping Brazilian islands, above ground and under the sea

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 12:01 AM

Few people have set foot on the islands of Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas, but now you can visit them from the comfort of your couch. Google Maps’ latest Street View imagery takes you through both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, widely considered to be amongst Brazil’s most coveted destinations. This Street View journey not only takes you across golden beaches and around towering cliffs, but also deep into the ocean for Brazil’s first underwater Street View collection. With help from the Googler Trekker, a backpack equipped with a 15-lens camera, and our partners at Catlin Seaview Survey, these images offer an immersive picture of two areas Brazil is striving to preserve.

Our first stop is Fernando de Noronha, a group of islands known for their natural beauty and ecotourism, and a prized destination in Brazil. Tourists, only permitted on the island in limited groups due to conservation efforts, often seek out the archipelago’s stunning beaches.

A trip to Fernando de Noronha may begin with a stop at Cacimba do Padre. This beautiful beach is known worldwide for its incredible surfing and gorgeous sunsets.

If the sand isn’t for you, make your way toward Baía dos Porcos. This small stretch of land is known for its spectacular views of “Dois Irmãos,” two grand rock formations triumphantly rising from the ocean.

Our next stop is Atol das Rocas, an atoll in the South Atlantic ocean used exclusively for scientific research. A pivotal breeding area for various animals, Atol das Rocas is home to 30 species of tropical seabirds. While you won’t be able to come here as a tourist, virtual visits are highly encouraged!

Ready for a swim? Dive into the Atlantic Ocean from the top of Buraco do Inferno. Also known as "The Devil’s Hole," this huge rock formation is a popular diving spot in Fernando de Noronha. At certain points in the day, its blow hole releases air and water in an eruptive display.

Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas are also sanctuaries for animals and marine wildlife precious to the regions, including dolphins, turtles, and a variety of fish. Schools of fish often traverse volcanic rock beneath the ocean’s surface at Trinta Reis.

These dolphins, known as “spinner dolphins” due to their acrobatic modes of swimming, are making their way through shallow waters.

Alongside divers snapping pictures, you can swim with a large sea turtle moving with the ocean’s current.

To bring more island beaches to your living room, or continue your virtual scuba-dive, visit Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas on Street View, or check out our gallery of highlights!

Growing up in the shadow of Everest

Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 12:01 AM

Apa Sherpa is a Sherpa mountaineer who holds the world record for reaching the summit of Mount Everest 21 times—more than any other person. In 2009, Apa founded the Apa Sherpa Foundation, a nonprofit that works to provide better educational and economic opportunities to the young people of the Khumbu region. In March 2014, Apa Sherpa, Google Earth Outreach, and the Nepalese nonprofit Story Cycle, embarked on a 10-day trek through the Khumbu region, supporting local people to enhance the digital representations of their communities on Google Maps. We hope the project will empower the Apa Sherpa Foundation, Story Cycle, other nonprofits, and Sherpa community members to tell their stories through Google Maps. -Ed.

I was born in 1960 in Thame, a small town in the Khumbu region of Nepal, which is home to Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak. Even though I grew up in the shadow of the mountain, I dreamt of being a doctor instead of a climber. That dream was never realized. When I was 12, my father passed away, and I had to find work to support my family. So I began carrying goods up the mountain as part of an expedition team. At 30, a dream that had never been mine came true: I summited Everest for the first time as a porter.
Apa Sherpa on the summit of Everest with a memorial to Sir Edmund Hillary who passed away in 2008. Photo credit: Apa Sherpa Foundation

Our region is famous for being home to Everest, but it’s also the home of the Sherpa community and has been for centuries. The region has much more to offer than just the mountain. So last year, I guided the Google Maps team through my home region to collect Street View imagery that improves the map of our community. Now you can find Thame on the map and explore other communities nestled at the base of Everest, like Khumjung and Phortse.

Partnering with Google Maps allowed us to get important local landmarks on the map and share a richer view of Khumbu with the world, including local monasteries, lodges, schools and more, with some yaks along the way! My hope is that when people see this imagery online, they’ll have a deeper understanding of the region and the Sherpa people that live there.

Map of Thame, Apa Sherpa’s hometown, before the Google Mapping project [above] and added locations [below]

When people ask what it feels like to reach the top of Mount Everest, I say “heaven.” But I haven’t summited the mountain 21 times because I love climbing. I earned this world record in pursuit of a greater goal: to provide a good education and a better, safer life for my kids. My hope is that my children and future generations have many choices for employment outside of mountaineering. Through the Apa Sherpa Foundation, I now work to improve educational access by funding the Lower Secondary School in my hometown to give children other options for their future, so they can pursue their dreams to be doctors—or anything else they want to be, like mine, so many years ago.

Your online trip to my home awaits you on Google Maps. And if you ever get the chance to visit the Khumbu region in person, come stay at the Everest Summiteer Lodge that I built with my own hands. We’ll be ready to welcome you.

Apa Sherpa